Capital monuments (Charles Krauthammer, Nov 25, 2005, Townhall)
[W]ashington has a second distinction, more subtle and even more telling about the nature of America: its many public statues to foreign liberators. I’m not talking about the statues of Churchill and Lafayette, great allies and participants in America’s own epic struggles against tyranny. Everybody celebrates friends. I’m talking about the liberators who had nothing to do with us. Walk a couple of blocks from Dupont Circle at the heart of commercial Washington, and you come upon a tiny plaza graced by Gandhi, with walking stick. And perhaps 100 yards from him, within shouting distance, stands Tomas Masaryk, the great Czech patriot and statesman.
Masaryk, in formal dress and aristocratic demeanor, has nothing in common with the robed, slightly bent Gandhi with whom he shares the street except that they were both great liberators, and except that they are honored by Americans precisely for their devotion to freedom.
Farther up the avenue stands Robert Emmet, the Irish revolutionary, while one block to the west of Masaryk looms a massive monument to a Ukrainian poet and patriot, Taras Shevchenko. And then gracing the avenues near the Mall are the Americans: great statues to Central and South American liberators, not just Juarez and Bolivar but even the more obscure, such as General Jose Artigas, father of modern Uruguay.
Discount if you will (as fashionable anti-Americanism does) the Statue of Liberty as ostentatious self-advertising or perhaps a relic of an earlier, more pure America. But as you walk the streets of Washington, it is harder to discount America’s quiet homage to foreign liberators — statues built decades apart without self-consciousness and without any larger architectural (let alone political) plan. They have but one thing in common: They share America’s devotion to liberty. Liberty not just here but everywhere. Indeed, liberty for its own sake.
America has long proclaimed this principle, but in the post-9/11 era, it has pursued it with unusual zeal and determination. Much of the world hears America declare the spread of freedom the centerpiece of its foreign policy and insists nonetheless that America’s costly sacrifices in Iraq and even Afghanistan are nothing more than classic imperialism in search of dominion, oil, pipelines or whatever such commodity most devalues America’s exertions. The overwhelming majority of Americans refuse to believe that. Whatever their misgivings about the cost and wisdom of these wars, they know how deep and authentic is the American devotion to liberty.
Many around the world find such sentiments and the accompanying declarations hard to credit. Europeans, in particular, with their long tradition of realpolitik, cannot conceive of a Great Power actually believing such hopeless idealism.
Likewise, who else but the Anglospheric nations, the Poles, and the notably pre-Revolutionary French who helped us win our Revolution, have many of their soldiers buried in the soil of nations they helped to win their liberty? The singular fact about the crusade to democratize the Middle East — the one that neither the Left nor the far Right — can reckon with is that it is entirely consistent with our history.